LeBron James Doesn’t Make Lakers Title Favorites by Himself

Matthew Jordan

Monday, July 2, 2018 2:31 AM UTC

Monday, Jul. 2, 2018 2:31 AM UTC

LeBron James has decided to leave Cleveland for the second time in his career as he is heading to the Los Angeles Lakers. Needless to say, there has been a huge shift on the NBA futures.

The Los Angeles Lakers just became very relevant again as LeBron James will be suiting up for the purple and gold for the foreseeable future. James agreed to a four-year, $154 million contract with the Lakers; the fourth year reportedly is a player option. It's the longest deal James has signed since a six-year deal with the Heat in 2010. Of course, that was the last time he left Cleveland. When he returned there in 2014, James said his intention was to finish his career as a Cavalier. Maybe he still will down the road. James is the first player in league history to lead a postseason in scoring and then switch teams the following offseason.

SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks have adjusted the 2019 NBA title odds accordingly. The Lakers went from +2000 to +350, tied with the Boston Celtics for the second-shortest odds behind two-time reigning champion Golden State (-110). James reportedly tried to lure Kevin Durant to L.A. with him, but Durant declined and re-upped with the Dubs.

Presumably, the Lakers aren’t done making big moves. They were thought to be the leaders to sign L.A. native Paul George, but he re-signed with Oklahoma City. LeBron’s buddy Chris Paul won’t be joining him in Hollywood as he already re-upped with Houston. Maybe Carmelo Anthony takes a buyout from Oklahoma City for the chance to play with LeBron in L.A.

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Once LeBron James plays his first game with the Lakers...

6 of the top-8 scorers in NBA History will have played for the @Lakers pic.twitter.com/TWr7zrQown

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 2, 2018
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The biggest-name free agent still on the board is probably Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins, but he’s coming off an Achilles injury that’s one of the most devastating types of injuries a basketball player could suffer. Ask former Lakers great Kobe Bryant about that.

It’s likely that the Lakers will make an even bigger push now to trade for the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard, although it’s well known that San Antonio doesn’t want to trade him in the Western Conference. Still, if the Lakers make clearly the best offer, Gregg Popovich and Co. might have no choice but to take it. This may spell the end for Lonzo Ball in L.A. as it’s hard to imagine that LeBron would put up with the LaVar Ball circus.

The Celtics and 76ers also are in the running for Leonard. If either got him, the team’s title odds would shrink considerably. Philadelphia, which also pursued LeBron, is currently +1400 for next season’s title.

As for Cleveland, the Cavs might as well kick-start a full-on rebuild because they have zero chance as currently constructed to win the Eastern Conference again. They might not even be a playoff team. Kevin Love’s in the final year of his contract and could be dealt. The Cavs are now +50000 for the championship.

LeBron leaving the East could have other domino effects. For example, maybe the Toronto Raptors (+6000) don’t trade a DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry now. They were eliminated in the playoffs by LeBron each of the past three seasons, and GM Masai Ujiri reportedly was open to a makeover of the team.

We do know one thing for sure: a non-LeBron James team will represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals for the first time since the Celtics in 2010. James’ Cavs lost to Boston in that year’s conference semifinals, and that was the last straw for LeBron deciding to leave Cleveland.

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